MIAMI (CBSMiami / CNN) – Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises is not responsible for the death of an 18-month-old girl who fell from her grandfather’s arms through a window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship, a judge ruled Tuesday .
When Chloe Wiegand fell from the 11th floor of the ship docked in Puerto Rico in July 2019, the responsibility lay with her grandfather Salvatore “Sam” Anello, judged US District Judge Donald L. Graham.
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Chloe’s parents, Alan Wiegand and Kimberly Schultz Wiegand, had sued Royal Caribbean for negligence.
“In the present case, the danger of lifting the deceased over the railing and sticking her out of the open window was open and obvious, so the defendant was under no obligation to warn its passengers of the dangers of such behavior,” Graham wrote in the Judgment filed in the southern district of Florida.
Anello had testified that he picked Chloe up and put her feet on a wooden railing and, according to the verdict, didn’t feel a glass when he reached out his hand to touch the window. Video footage from the cruise shows the grandfather leaning over the railing when the window was open before lifting the child, Graham wrote in the decision.
“Although no glass was felt in front of him and without confirming that the window was closed, Mr. Anello lifted the deceased over the wooden railing and stretched her body closer to the window opening … where she eventually fell to her death,” said the verdict.
The judge said it was not Royal Caribbean’s responsibility to warn passengers of the “obvious danger of putting a child on or through an open window”.
“That court finds that a reasonable person, through normal use of his senses, would have known of the dangers associated with Mr. Anello’s conduct. Accordingly, the defendant was not obliged to warn against this, ”says the judgment.
A family lawyer said they were surprised and saddened by the verdict and would soon appeal.
“This is a matter that should be decided by a jury and we are confident and hope the appeals court will approve,” attorney Michael Winkleman said in a statement. “We will continue to fight and raise awareness of the dangers of unintentional falling windows for young children. In this case it was always about Chloe and her short but beautiful life. This goal has not changed. “
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CNN has approached Royal Caribbean for comment.
Chloe’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises in December 2019, arguing the cruise line had failed to comply with industry safety standards to keep guests from falling out of windows.
After a federal judge denied Royal Caribbean’s motion to dismiss the case, the company resubmitted it, and Graham sided with the company on Tuesday.
The tragedy occurred on July 7, 2019 when Chloe was 11 years old with her grandfather.
Anello told CBS News at the time that she fell out of his arms when he picked her up and tried to put her on the railing of one of the windows, thinking the window was closed. “It’s like it’s gone. It’s like the glass has disappeared, ”he said.
With one arm around her, Anello said, leaning forward to tap the glass with the other arm.
But the details of the fall are controversial. Port officials said Anello sat the girl in the window, lost her balance and the girl fell to death.
Anello pleaded guilty to the negligent homicide of Chloe’s death last October and received a three-year suspended sentence.
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